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March 21, 2022

Why do we need Vitamin B3 (Niacin)?

Vitamin B3 also called niacin or nicotinic acid is one of the eight water-soluble B vitamins. It is not stored in the body, so it is essential to include foods that are rich in niacin in your daily diet. Niacin is very crucial for the proper functioning of our bodily systems and enzymes. 

The recognition and discovery of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) as a vitamin in the early 20th century has resulted in the understanding and treatment of the widespread human disease called pellagra that causes severe skin lesions, dementia, diarrhea, and even death. 

Read more about vitamin B3 and discover the various health benefits that you can get from this nutrient, the signs and symptoms if you are deficient with the vitamin and the different niacin-rich foods you can add to your diet. 


Origin and History 

German scientists have demonstrated that nicotinic acid occurs in rice polishing and yeast. It was first isolated by Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk in 1912, while he was finding a cure for beriberi. However, nicotinic acid had no effect on treating the disease the reason why Funk abandoned his work. Though he was wrong, he actually showed that nicotinic acid had some nutritional value. 

In 1915, Austrian-American epidemiologist and US Public Health Service officer Joseph Goldberger had been significant in discovering the connection between nicotinic acid and treating pellagra. He conducted a series of experiments on orphans, asylums, prisoners and also an animal model in relation to the condition called black tongue in dogs.

In 1937, American biochemist and researcher Conrad Elvehjem has successfully found that niacin has prevented and treated pellagra in dogs which also works well in humans. 


Fast Facts

- Niacin was initially been called nicotinic acid for it can be created through the oxidation of nitric acid and nicotine. Today, people usually know that nicotine is an additive chemical in tobacco, the reason why niacin is used nowadays that originated from the words 'NIcotinic ACid vitamIN'. 

- Niacin is used by the human body as nicotinamide or niacinamide which is the form of vitamin B3 that is found in food sources and also as a dietary supplement. 

- High doses of vitamin B3 can cause a harmless flushing sensation and darkening of the urine. However, there is a no-flush form of niacin to lessen this complication. 


Niacin Deficiency 

Niacin deficiency also called 'pellagra' is a deficiency syndrome caused by low levels of vitamin B3. It is caused by the inadequate conversion of tryptophan to niacin. If pellagra is left untreated it can sometimes lead to death. The syndrome includes the following signs and symptoms:

  • dermatitis (primarily on the face, hands, feet, and arms)
  • depression and anxiety
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mood changes
  • mouth sores
  • dementia
  • diarrhea
  • lesions


Health Benefits 

1. Boosts Energy. Helps in the production of energy since all B vitamins help the body to convert all the protein, fat and carbohydrates from the foods that you eat into glucose which is burned in order to produce energy. It is essential for your daily diet because it also helps the cells in your body to function properly. 

2. Skin Health. It helps improve skin function and protect your skin from sun damage. Niacin is essential in the cosmetic and skincare industry for it helps promote your skin and reduce the effects of oxidative stress and cell damage caused by free radicals. Studies show that it can help prevent skin cancer. 

3. Reduces Anxiety and Depression. Vitamin B3 can actually help reduce anxiety and depression. There is a varying success in treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Studies also show that deficiency in B vitamins is linked to mood and anxiety disorders. 

4. Antioxidant Properties. Niacin is one of the B vitamins that contain high antioxidant properties, especially when combined with other vitamins and nutrients that also offer strong antioxidant effects such as vitamin C and vitamin E. Studies suggest that niacin is capable of protecting your cells against damage.

5. Detoxifying Effects. It contains detoxifying effects that can help cleanse your body and get rid of toxic and harmful chemicals that can damage your cells and organs. It is scientifically proven that it is essential in the regeneration of components of detoxification as well as your antioxidant systems. 

6. Heart Health. Research shows that niacin can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks for it reduces bad cholesterol while increases good cholesterol. Beneficial for people with atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries due to the plaque along the blood vessels. 

7. Supports Memory. It helps boost brain function and reduce your risk of having early-onset dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. It can help improve your memory and is very necessary for proper central nervous system function. Studies also suggest that vitamin B3 deficiency is associated with brain fog. 

8. Lowers Bad Cholesterol. It is involved in fat and cholesterol metabolism the reason why it is proven to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Studies show that niacin is effective in lowering bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels in the blood and is also effective in increasing good cholesterol in your body. 

9. Joint and Muscle Health. It is effective in promoting joint and muscle health for it increases joint mobility and reduces pain as well as inflammation that is related to conditions like osteoarthritis. Studies have proven the effectiveness of niacin as an anti-inflammatory agent and as a treatment for osteoarthritis. 

10. Balances Hormones. Niacin plays an important role in hormone regulation. It helps the body make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands. It is necessary for the production of various body compounds that can balance your hormones, make you have better sleep and promote relaxation.


Dietary Sources

Vitamin B3 is widely distributed and available in various food sources. Good sources of niacin can be found in plant and animal foods. Here are some niacin-rich foods that you may include in your diet:

  • Vegetables (green leafy vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes)
  • Nuts and Seeds (peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, barley, almonds)
  • Poultry, Meat & Offal (liver, various cuts of chicken, turkey, beef, pork, duck and lamb) 
  • Fish and Seafood (shrimp, tuna, anchovies, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout)
  • Milk and Alternatives (whole milk, cottage cheese, fortified soy beverage)
  • Grain Products (whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, bran cereals)
  • Fruits (bananas, avocados, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, orange) 
  • Others (baker's yeast, coffee, tea, mushroom, tofu)


Niacin Supplements

Important Note: When it comes to taking dietary supplements, we suggest consulting your healthcare professional if you are planning on taking vitamin B3 because of the possible side effects and interactions with other medications. It should be taken with extra care to avoid overdose and misusage.  

Niacin can be purchased as a single supplement or as part of any B complex vitamins. It also comes in different forms and amounts. It can be in the form of elixir, injection, tablet and capsules in different dosages. 

Niacin supplementation as therapeutic doses can cause peptic ulcers and liver damage, therefore persons with a history of these ailments should not take vitamin B3 in large doses.


Dosage and Duration 

Here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances for certain age and gender:






Birth to 6 months

2 mg

2 mg



7 to 12 months

4 mg

4 mg



1 to 3 years

6 mg

6 mg



4 to 8 years

8 mg

8 mg



9 to 13 years

12 mg

12 mg



14 to 18 years

16 mg

14 mg

18 mg

17 mg

19+ years

16 mg

14 mg

18 mg

17 mg


Precautions and Side Effects

Children and Pregnant Women. Keep out of reach of children. If not properly administered, it can lead to adverse side effects. During pregnancy, vitamin B3 is safe only when used in recommended doses since it is essential for the mum's and baby's health. Make sure to consult first your healthcare provider before taking any kind of medications and supplements. 

Overdosage. High doses of vitamin B3 or niacin is unlikely if you take the prescribed amount. Also, it is not possible to overdose on niacin by simply eating a lot of niacin-rich foods. However, taking too much can lead to serious side effects such as severe skin flushing, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, and gout. Clinical trials have shown that there are significant reactions at 1000 mg.

Antibiotics. Avoid taking antibiotics such as tetracycline and other antibiotics at the same time with niacin because it interferes with the effectiveness of these kinds of medication. All B vitamin complex supplements should be taken at different times from antibiotics to avoid interactions. 

Diabetes Medication. People who are taking diabetes medications such as insulin, metformin, glipizide and other medications that treat high blood sugar levels should closely monitor their glucose levels when taking niacin supplements or much better avoid taking vitamin B3 supplements. 

Blood Pressure Medications. It is recommended that blood pressure medications should not be taken together with niacin. You should take blood pressure medications at least 2 hours or more before taking medications for high blood. Niacin can make the medication stronger and can lower your blood pressure.

Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends to consult health care professionals for any questions concerning your health.


News Medical Life Sciences
National Institutes of Health
Oregon State University
Encyclopedia Britannica
Life Extension
Organic Facts
Dr. Axe

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